Seventh-Seeded Bruins Advance to National Championship Match
May 23, 2005
College Station, TX - The seventh-seeded UCLA men's tennis team (26-3) advanced to its second straight NCAA Final Monday afternoon, knocking off third-seeded Mississippi, 4-2 in a semifinal showdown at Texas A&M's George P. Mitchell Tennis Center. UCLA will face the winner of the evening match between top-seeded Baylor and fourth-seeded Florida on Tuesday at 6:00 p.m. (CST).
Monday's doubles point was clinched at the No. 2 court, where 58th-ranked Philipp Gruendler and Benjamin Kohlloeffel defeated Mississippi's Fredrik Aarum/Erling Tveit, 8-3. Prior to that, UCLA's Chris Lam and Luben Pampoulov improved to 12-0 on the year, posting an 8-3 win at court No. 3.
Once singles play began, Bruin senior Alberto Francis turned in a dominating 6-3, 6-0 performance at court No. 5 to put UCLA ahead 2-0. Although the Bruins appeared to be cruising, the Rebels forged a comeback with a pair of victories to tie the score at 2-2. Juan Pablo Di Cesare downed Lam, 6-3, 6-2 at court No. 4, while over on court No. 1, fourth-ranked Catalin Gard was a 6-2, 6-3 winner over seventh-ranked Pampoulov.
UCLA would then take a 3-2 lead in the match when Gruendler, who won a crucial first-set tiebreaker against Karim Alayli at court No. 6, posted a 7-6(6), 6-1 victory. At that point, Kris Kwinta was about to begin a third set at court No. 3, while Kohlloeffel was within a game of winning his match at court No. 2. Kohlloeffel's opponent, Eric Claesson, needed an injury timeout down 5-3 in the second set. Once back on court, Kohlloeffel quickly closed out the game, winning 6-1, 6-3 for his second clinching match in a row.
'I thought our guys played really great in the doubles and came out very strong,' said UCLA head coach Billy Martin. 'I think (the doubles) was a big shot in the arm for us. It was a dogfight for us in the singles.'
If UCLA plays Baylor, it will mark the second year in a row that the Bruins and Bears will meet in the national championship match. Baylor defeated UCLA, 4-0 in Tulsa, Okla. last season and has won 56-straight matches heading into Monday. The Bears are 32-0 this season.
'I think I speak for the team when I say we are very excited because (reaching the final again) has been our goal since the day we lost last year,' added Martin. We have hoped to be able to get the chance to play Baylor all year quite honestly. We know they are a great team and we will have to play fantastic. But sports is sports and on any given day anything can happen. We're going to be looking forward to it.'